The two most valuable gifts you can give your children don’t cost a penny: resilience and a positive self-image. These are most successfully embedded by organic means, by lessons learned before discussions can ever take place. And these lessons live and grow through deliberation.
Early parenthood is overwhelmingly focused on protection, measuring milestones, and simply coping with the exhaustion of responsibility for your new helpless and dependent life. Success is measured by simply getting through each day with a few hours of quality sleep and perhaps the luxury of a shower. Survival skills are paramount. Soldier on!
While each day can feel like a month, the truth is that the months seem like a blink of an eye when in your rear-view mirror. Infancy is fleeting and leaves little time for esoteric planning.
But, once you recover from the physical demands of parenting a new infant, it’s time to get deliberate. Begin allowing your baby to rely on himself or herself. When appropriate, allow self-soothing, bumps and bruises, schedule flexibility, and so much more. While still in the safety of your loving arms, welcome those moments were your precious baby doesn’t need you. Yes, it will be painful as a parent, but realize you won’t always be there.
Embedding resilience can’t wait until you are ready to back off. Many parents don’t feel comfortable providing space to their young child for years or decades. By then it might be too late. When you do all the soothing and problem solving for your child, the window of opportunity may be lost. The inherent ability for resilience may be too late for kindling. Professional counseling may be the only option to inject what didn’t happen early on.
You are the one who can make this deliberate decision for the child you love so dearly. As much as you want to control every aspect of your baby’s life, realize this is a disservice. Stand back and watch the mistakes that convert to lessons learned. That’s how resilience is learned. And that’s how a positive self-image grows.
A positive self-image doesn’t come from every participant receiving a trophy at the end of a competitive game. One side won and one side lost. Not everyone earned a trophy. Childhood should be an education for the real world. Your child won’t receive a trophy simply for showing up to work or for the times that end in failure. Only you can instill the right response to failure at a young age. This is how we all grow.
Do what you can to get your child ready by you doing less. That’s the gift you have within your power to give. Provide it early and often. The rewards are tremendous.